Fraud in Connection with Major Disasters Benefits
This year, Florida residents were forced to weather a number of natural disasters, including both Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. As the state continues to heal from the destruction inflicted by these storms, a number of people and businesses have come under fire for alleged involvement in fraudulent activities related to major disaster and emergency benefits. To ensure that you are not falsely accused of this offense, you should consider speaking with an experienced white collar crime lawyer who is well-versed in both state and federal law and who can protect your interests.
Under 18 U.S.C. 1040, a person can be convicted of committing fraud in connection with major disaster or emergency benefits if he or she:
- Falsifies, conceals, or covers up any material fact; or
- Knowingly makes a materially false or fraudulent statement or representation in any matter related to the authorization, transportation, or payment of a benefit distributed in connection with a major disaster; or
- Knowingly makes or uses a false writing or document that contains a fictitious or materially false statement in any matter related to a benefit disbursed following an emergency declaration.
Before a person can be convicted under this statute, prosecutors must also demonstrate that:
- The authorization, transportation, or payment of the benefit in question affects interstate commerce;
- The benefit in question was transported via the mail; or
- The benefit took the form of a record, voucher, payment, or thing of value belonging to the U.S. or one of its agencies.
In most situations, these types of charges are filed against contractors who are accused of fraudulently procuring property or offering to provide services after a major disaster while under contract with the U.S. These kinds of claims often include allegations of a contractor, subcontractor, or supplier agreeing to perform clean up tasks, but failing to do so despite accepting payment for the work or having FEMA benefits signed over to them. Charges of identity theft, charity fraud, selling contracts, public corruption, insurance fraud, and filing false claims are also relatively common following major disasters, such as Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Unfortunately, in their zeal to prosecute wrongdoers, the government often accuses innocent businesses of participating in fraud-based schemes, which can have devastating consequences for those who are convicted, as this offense is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Call Our Legal Team Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with an Experienced Attorney
If you were accused of fraud after offering or providing services in Florida following the hurricanes last year, you need the support of an experienced attorney who will aggressively represent your interests, whether in settlement proceedings or in the courtroom. For an evaluation of your own case, please call dedicated Miami white collar crime lawyer Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. at 305-670-9919. Initial consultations are conducted free of charge, so please don’t hesitate to call or contact a member of our Miami legal team online. We are standing by and eager to address your fraud-related questions and concerns.